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Ursula Le Guin on the Proud Tradition of Award Refusal

Jean Paul Sartre © Wikimedia Commons

Editor's Note:

Also in the news: Jeffrey Toobin’s Patty Hearst bio heads to the movies, and Hugh Jackman comments on why he passed on James Bond. It’s your Daily Blunt!

When Bob Dylan hesitated to accept his Nobel Prize, he very nearly participated a notable tradition: the (nearly) lost art of refusing awards. Writing for The Paris Review, author Ursula K. Le Guin longingly explores this rare display of honor, which has been dubbed “the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal” after the famous philosopher who refused a Nobel in ’64. A last-minute contender for 2017’s Sartre: homeless activist General Dogon, who tore up an award right in front of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti earlier this week. Le Guin must be seething with jealousy!

Here’s a trend in the literary world that never really took off: short stories as a salve for short attention spans. LitHub observes that professors and taste-makers have spent years preparing everyone – readers and writers alike – to accept short fiction as the 21st century’s preferred serving size, but reading and shopping habits have not borne this out. Not only that, the article points out that excellent fiction of any length is not as easily-digestible as we make it out to be: “Short stories are not aphorisms. Short stories are not the chocolate sampler hurriedly purchased as a last-minute gift idea… You can’t get all of a story on a single pass.” For these and many other reasons, they suggest packing a novel to take along on your next trip instead.

Patty Hearst became a permanent subject of fascination in the 20th century: while being held captive by the Symbionese Liberation Army for two years, the young heiress was brainwashed into participating as one of their militants, ending up on the hook for crimes she would never have participated in otherwise. With Jeffrey Toobin’s book about Hearst, American Heiress, poised to become a film starring Elle Fanning, this story is likely to become a 21st century sensation in its own right. It’s worth noting that Toobin’s account of these events is far from the last word — Hearst’s own memoir, Every Secret Thing, is important to consider, and the movie production would be wise to actively seek her input.

Just imagine how different the last few James Bond films might have been if Hugh Jackman had stepped into the role instead of Daniel Craig! Jackman recently commented on that pivot point in his career, and why he ultimately decided to let some other actor fill 007’s shoes. It turns out he had a few opinions on how to improve the franchise: “I felt like they needed to become grittier and real…and the response was: ‘Oh, you don’t get a say. You just have to sign on.'” That could be an insight into Daniel Craig’s well-established fatigue as he continues into his fourth Bond picture. Meanwhile, Jackman will be playing P.T. Barnum in this December’s “The Greatest Showman.”